California, Travel Diary

California Road Trip Part 3 – Napa Valley, Yosemite National Park & Death Valley

Yosemite Valley Meadow at sunset

Welcome to part 3 of my California road trip travel diary. If you missed part one and two you can check them out here and here before you continue 🙂

Day 11 – San Francisco to Napa Valley

  • Saturday 12th September 2015
  • Accommodation – Embassy Suites, Napa Valley
  • Number of nights – 2

Today was Liam’s birthday! Happy Birthday!

We checked out and were on the road by 10.30am. Today we were heading to Napa Valley.

On the way we were stopping at Muir Woods National Monument to see the giant redwoods. Once we got nearer to the woods the journey started to become a little hair-raising. The road was far too near to the edge for my liking.

Muir Woods National Monument

We spent a long time trying to get a parking spot as the car park was tiny. There weren’t even any spaces left along the edge of the roads. I would recommend getting here a lot earlier than we did.

Muir Woods Redwood Trees

We finally got lucky and grabbed a spot as someone was leaving. Before heading into the woods we grabbed some food from the cafe as we hadn’t had any breakfast.

Muir Woods Redwood Trees

It was pretty amazing being around the giant trees. The experience was spoilt a little by noisy tourists who thought everything was hilariously funny.

Muir Woods Redwood Trees

We were probably only in the woods for around an hour before we left at about 2pm to continue on to Napa. Along the way we spotted an In-N-Out Burger which was on our bucket list. We pulled off the freeway specifically to experience this!

In N Out Burger

It was a bit confusing to order but eventually we got there. It was well worth it as the burgers were amazing! We were parked up near a supermarket so we headed in and bought some snacks and drinks for the next hotel room.

Napa Valley Scenery

We finally arrived at Embassy Suites around 5pm. On check in, as a honeymoon treat, we were given free Wi-Fi access and a code to use the vending machines for free.

The room was amazing, it’s one of my favourites from the whole trip. There was even a separate living room! The hotel was beautiful and spotless I would definitely stay here again.

Embassy Suites Napa Valley

The first thing we did was head down to happy hour at the bar area. This was actually 2 hours and we were taken aback when we found out the drinks were actually free! I ended up having a few sangrias and got a bit tipsy. There were also free snacks which we filled up on.

Embassy Suites Happy Hour Sangria

Embassy Suites Happy Hour Snacks

We ventured outside to sit for a while and duck watch (there was a pond!). We spied someone having a pizza delivered and I instantly also wanted pizza. You know how it is!

We collared the delivery guy on his way out to get the phone number and returned to the room about 8pm so we could order our pizza. Half an hour later pizza arrived on the scene and was absolutely delicious!

Embassy Suites Napa Valley Pizza Delivery

 

Day 12 – Napa Valley

  • Sunday 13th September 2015
  • Accommodation – Embassy Suites, Napa Valley
  • Number of nights – 2

Today we had a much needed lay in. We headed out to Dennys for brunch around midday. I had blueberry pancakes, sausages, hash browns and scrambled egg. It was amazing as usual. Liam just had a side dish as he wasn’t as hungry as me!

Dennys Napa Valley

The original plan whilst in Napa Valley was to visit some vineyards and go wine tasting. The weather wasn’t great so we ended up just heading over to Napa Valley Premium Outlets to spend the day shopping.

It was soooo quiet at the shops. Maybe because it was a Sunday, so I really enjoyed the day.

Napa Valley Vineyards

On the way back to the hotel we stopped and grabbed a Panda Express takeaway. THE best Chinese takeaway in the world!

We just chilled out for the rest of the evening as we had a long 5-6 hour drive the next day. We are off to Yosemite in the morning.

Embassy Suites Napa Valley Dressing Gown

 

Day 13 – Napa Valley to Yosemite National Park

Checkout at Embassy Suites was at 11am so we packed up the car and went to check out dead on time. I took some quick photos of the hotel before we left. It has a cute little pool area we hadn’t got around to using.

Embassy Suites Napa Valley

Embassy Suites Napa Valley

The drive to Yosemite was long and uneventful. Mainly freeways and long empty roads. We arrived around 5.45pm and were in our room within half an hour.

Driving to Yosemite Selfie

We were advised to empty everything from the car. Apparently anything that smells like food attracts bears and they could damage the cars trying to get in. This took us a long time as we had somehow accumulated a lot of stuff over the past 12 days!

Driving into Yosemite National Park

The room was lovely, quite rustic. We had been given a room on the second floor with a balcony directly facing Yosemite Falls. Unfortunately, as it was September the waterfall was dry. Had we been here earlier in the year it would have been amazing to watch from the room.

Yosemite Lodge at the Falls Room

Once we had settled in we decided to walk to the bar and have some drinks. It was about 8pm and pitch black outside. I was terrified we were going to get attacked by a bear on the way!

We made it safely, much to my delight, and we settled in with a strawberry daiquiri with whipped cream, yum!

Strawberry Daiquiri at Yosemite

 

Day 14 – Yosemite National Park

Today we were up bright and early at 8am. It was raining and overcast, the first bad day of the holiday.

Yosemite National Park

Before we did anything we booked a tour for the afternoon up to Glacier Point. Then we decided to do an easy walk to the bottom of Yosemite Falls through the woods.

Yosemite Falls Yosemite National Park

In the woods we saw numerous deer and they were fascinating just to stand and watch.

Deer in Yosemite National Park

Once the afternoon rolled around we settled on our coach for the tour to Glacier Point. Our coach driver was a very friendly lady. She was telling us stories all the way there and back.

I’m glad she was confident in her driving abilities as had to navigate the coach up tiny winding roads.

Glacier Point Yosemite

Glacier Point Yosemite National Park

The views from Glacier Point were amazing even though it was cloudy. On a clear, sunny day it must look ten times better.

View of Half Dome Yosemite National Park

Glacier Point Yosemite National Park

We had the choice to either jump back on the coach or hike back down into Yosemite Valley. The hike takes a few hours so we opted to get back on the coach.

Yosemite National Park Views

Yosemite Valley View from Glacier Point

We got back into the valley around 5pm so we headed straight to for food. We decided against the food court and headed for the Mountain Room Restaurant.

The food was ok but the service was extremely slow. I ordered the burger and it comes with crisps rather than actual chips! Weird!

Soup at The Mountain Room Restaurant Yosemite

Dessert at The Mountain Room Restaurant Yosemite

After dinner we went back to the room to chillax after a long day. We had to decide what hike we wanted to embark on in the morning.

 

Day 15 – Yosemite National Park

Today we were up and out by 9am. We were doing the hike to Vernal Falls to start the day.

We caught the shuttle bus to stop number 16 and jumped off. Before we set off we wanted some food so we had to wait for the food kiosk to open. We bought some snacks to keep us going then off we went.

Vernall Falls Hike Yosemite

It was, as you would imagine for a waterfall hike, uphill all the way. We took the mist trail on the way up as it was shorter.

Vernall Falls Hike Yosemite

It was exhausting as I’m not fit at all. We kept stopping to have a rest and a drink.

Vernall Falls Hike Yosemite

Finally, after an hour and half we arrived at the bottom of Vernal Falls. There was water in the falls at least, even though it wasn’t a lot.

Vernal Falls Hike Yosemite

We decided to continue on to the top of the falls. I’m not going to lie the trail was pretty terrifying at times. Towards the top you are climbing up the side of the mountain on a tiny ledge. I can imagine this trail must be pretty dangerous when it is wet.

Vernal Falls Hike Yosemite

It was a relief to finally reach the top. Once we were up there we found a nice rock to sit on to eat some snacks.

Vernal Falls Yosemite

We continued on the trail towards Nevada Falls. On the way Liam nearly trod on a snake whilst he was taking some photos of me!

Nevada Falls Hike Yosemite

We wanted to continue to the top but as it was already 2pm we thought we had better head back down.

Nevada Falls Yosemite

We decided to take the winter trail back down. It was much longer than the mist trail but I was not up for climbing back down the way we came.

 

Nevada Falls Hike Yosemite

It took about 2 and half hours to get to the bottom as it involved going up further before coming back down. I’d recommend it because you get a lovely view of Vernal Falls from above.Vernal Falls from above Yosemite

We were back on flat ground around 4.45pm so we took the shuttle bus to the meadow. I wanted to take some photos of the landscapes. The sun was just going down so it was very pretty.

Yosemite Valley Meadow at sunset

We had wanted to do the Mirror Lake trail as well today but we hadn’t realised how long the hike to the falls would take. I was a bit disappointed as the photos I’d seen of Mirror Lake were amazing but we will have to save that for our next visit.

Yosemite Valley Meadow at sunset

We decided to have dinner at the food court which is like a big canteen. We had mediocre spaghetti and meatballs followed by cake. Before we retired for the evening we browsed the shops and bought some souvenirs.

 

Day 16 – Yosemite National Park to Lone Pine

  • Thursday 17th September 2015
  • Accommodation – Best Western Plus Frontier Motel, Lone Pine
  • Number of nights – 1

Today unfortunately we were leaving the beauty of Yosemite behind. We were heading to our checkpoint in Lone Pine before our day in Death Valley tomorrow.

We checked out around 10.30am after repacking the car with all our stuff. Thankfully it survived the bears!

Yosemite National Park Tioga Pass

Lake Tenya Yosemite

Luckily for us the Tioga Pass road is open at this time of year. There are plenty of places to pull over on the way out to take photos.

The scenery is absolutely stunning, we got some beautiful photos

Yosemite National Park Tioga Pass

On the way out we also drove through Tuolumne Meadows. It was so beautiful. I was so disappointed we hadn’t made it up there. I definitely want to go back and stay in the meadows next time.

Yosemite National Park Tioga Pass

Tenya Lake Yosemite National Park

The drive to Lone Pine was uneventful and we arrived around 3.30pm. I was really impressed with the Motel. It was very nice for the price we paid.

Lone Pine Motel

Lone Pine Motel

We were both exhausted so we ended up having a nap for a few hours. I then had the mammoth task of trying to cram all the stuff we had purchased into our suitcases.

Our aim was to minimise our loose luggage. Tomorrow after Death Valley we would be arriving in Vegas and handing the car back.

 

Day 17 – Lone Pine to Las Vegas via Death Valley

  • Friday 18th September 2015
  • Accommodation – The Venetian, Las Vegas
  • Number of nights – 7

Even though we still had a week left of the honeymoon today was a sad day. It was the final day of the ‘road trip’.

Once we arrived in Las Vegas we were handing back the rental car. I had become quite attached to it at this point and didn’t want to give back!

First we wanted to explore Death Valley though so we set off around 10am.

Death Valley

Death Valley

I had a very specific photo in mind for the Death Valley landscape, one that I’d seen before and wanted to recreate. I kept my eyes peeled the whole journey.

As soon as I saw the spot we pulled off the road and played photographer for a bit.

Possibly my favourite shot of the whole honeymoon! It was exactly what I had envisioned.

Here it is…

Death Valley

The best thing was that the road was genuinely empty. There was nobody else around, just us and the open road.

Once we actually got into the park it started to get hot. I mean properly hot. It was nearly 40 degrees outside (that’s 104 Fahrenheit!).

We blasted the air con for a few minutes at a time. We had to keep turning it off so the car didn’t overheat.

I basically melted, I was sticking to the leather seats. It was very unpleasant. I feel super sorry for the next person to sit in that seat.

Death Valley

We visited a few of the sights. Artists drive and Badwater Basin. I’m not going to lie to you I didn’t really enjoy my time in Death Valley.

I love the photos we managed to get but I don’t think I would return here in a hurry! The heat made me very grumpy.

Death Valley National Park

After seeing Badwater Basin we set off on our drive for our last stop, Las Vegas!

We arrived at McCarron International airport around 5pm and handed back the car. Can you believe we had driven a total of 1,400 miles on our little journey (!).

We jumped straight into a cab to take us to our hotel, The Venetian, for the start of our next adventure.

Continue on the journey with me:

 

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California Road Trip Part Three

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